Pickaxe Pulse for December 1, 2013

Taking the pulse of the Nuggets every weekend

The Nuggets picked up four more wins this week and have won 9 of the last 11, leaving the team’s 1 and 4 start to the season as a distant memory. Nate Robinson has settled into his role as a scorer off the bench, averaging 18 points while shooting over 50% on threes in the last four games. Robinson has combined with Ty Lawson, Jordan Hamilton, and the surprisingly hot-shooting Andre Miller to give the Nuggets 8 or more made threes in 8 straight games, which is a franchise record. The Nuggets’ bigs continue to be inconsistent individually but effective as a group, with JJ Hickson, Kenneth Faried, and Timofey Mozgov each having at least one great game and one bad game this week. Darrell Arthur’s defense on Dirk Nowitzki helped in the win at Dallas. Randy Foye played well against Kevin Martin in the win at Minnesota and came up with a key late-game stop of Carmelo Anthony to seal the win against New York. The Nuggets’ bench, led by Robinson and Mozgov, put up 72 points in a comeback road win against Toronto to kick off a six-game road trip.

Current record and standings: 10-6 (6-2 home, 4-4 road), sixth place in the Western conference

Upcoming games: Tuesday at Brooklyn, Wednesday at Cleveland, Friday at Boston, Saturday at Philadelphia

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 110, Dallas Mavericks 96

If the Denver ends up having a relatively successful 2013-14 season, it’s likely that on reflection these two big wins against Dallas will be seen as the turning point. The Nuggets never relinquished their halftime lead, thanks mostly to 13-point quarters (third and fourth, respectively) from both Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson, whose heroics kept the Mavs at bay every time they tried to claw their way back into the game. (more…)

The Hidden Impact of Darrell Arthur

Through the first 11 games of the Nuggets season the impact that each newcomer has brought has started to become very clear.

JJ Hickson stinks at defense but has done a good job on the glass and thrown down a few poster dunks. Nate Robinson shoots a lot, at times shooting Denver back into games and at time shooting them right out. Randy Foye shoots and makes threes and doesn’t do a ton else, either good or bad.

And Darrell Arthur plays good pick-and-roll defense, and compared to the rest of the power forwards on the Nuggets roster, really good defense in general.

So far this season the Nuggets defense is 6.8 points per 100 possessions better with Arthur on the floor, as they give up just 102.5 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor compared to 109.3 with him on the bench according to 82games.com

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 102 Dallas Mavericks 100

The Nuggets withstand a furious second-half comeback from Dallas and grind out a two-point win to move back to .500 on the season. It wasn’t pretty but the Nuggets put six scorers in double figures and make just enough plays to escape with a win, their fifth in a row at the Pepsi Center.
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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 111-Houston Rockets 122

The Nuggets trailed by double digits most of the night, including falling behind by 20, and ultimately fell to the Rockets 122-111.

The defense was invisible most of the night as the Rockets paraded to the rim, ultimately shooting 50.6 percent from the field. But don’t worry, I found all the D hiding in the grades.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 111-Los Angeles Lakers 99

Thanks to a dominating performance from Timofey Mozgov the Nuggets played well late and defeated the Lakers 111-99.

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How not to defend the high pick and roll – a Denver Nuggets tale

Going into the season, we were all mentally prepared for how bad the defense was going to be, especially when factoring in the absence of Denver’s two best wing defenders. But what has occurred over the span of these four games has been an organization-wide breakdown on a fundamental level when it comes to defense, from system to effort to the makeup of the roster. We’ve already covered the big man dilemma as well as the inability to defend the three, now it’s time to dig into the high pick and roll defense.

The basics of Denver’s pick and roll defensive principles is essentially for the traditional centers, McGee and Mozgov, to drop back to around the free throw line when defending a screener and for everyone else (essentially anyone guarding the screener) to hedge high. The theory behind hedging is basically for the defending big is to impede the ball handlers path around the screen enough so to give the ball handlers’ defender enough time to navigate the screen. Considering the kinds of athletes Denver employes at the forward positions, and the diminutive nature of the backcourt, this kind of help and recover system should, in theory, work out well. In theory.

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BREAKING NEWS: JaVale McGee Out Indefinitely

According to the official Nuggets twitter account, JaVale McGee will be sidelined indefinitely due to a stress fracture in his left tibia. 

Head coach Brian Shaw has not decided if he will start Timofey Mozgov or J.J. Hickson at center for Monday’s game against Utah but either way expect to see both players start logging more time at the position.

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Rapid Reaction: Phoenix Suns 114, Denver Nuggets 103

Although Ty Lawson turned in one of his best performances as a young Denver Nugget, his team couldn’t find any form of consistency on the defensive side of the ball and once again allowed the opponent’s front line to have career days all around. The Nuggets are now 1-4 on the season and looking more and more like a lottery team.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 109-Atlanta Hawks 107

Thanks to a late important three from Ty Lawson and a key defensive stop at the buzzer by Andre Miller the Nuggets defeated the Hawks 109-107 to give Brian Shaw his first career victory.

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Juggling flaming chainsaws — Denver’s front court dilemma

It’s hard to know how much to extrapolate from the first couple games of the season, as the morning dew from the new year still lays damp upon both arena and player alike. But if there has been any clear takeaway from Denver’s first two games it’s that the front court rotation is a rolling tire fire right now. No front court combination has logged more than 26 minutes together and Brian Shaw is currently juggling the unwieldy number of five big men in and out of the rotation.

The starting pair of McGee and J.J. Hickson is perhaps the most egregious miscalculation and the one who’s change seems the most immanent. Offensively, neither Hickson nor McGee seems to understand how to properly space the floor, despite J.J. being a threat in the pick and pop.

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Rapid Reaction: Portland Trailblazers 113, Denver Nuggets 98

In what surely had to be one of the more disappointing season openers in recent memory, the Nuggets put forth a confused and defensively-bereft effort Friday night as they succumbed to the Blazers in ugly fashion. Point guards Nate Robinson and Ty Lawson each scored over 20, while Brian Shaw once again juggled with an 11-man rotation that failed to produce any form of cohesion. Additional grades and notes below.

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What to Watch For: Nuggets vs. Portland Trailblazers

After a disappointing season opening loss to the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night the Nuggets return to Denver for their home opener against the Portland Trailblazers.

As the Nuggets finish their final preparations for the Blazers there are a few things to ponder entering tonight’s game.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 88-Sacramento Kings 90

Thanks to an unstoppable night from DeMarcus Cousins and a late Ty Lawson miss, the Nuggets dropped their 2013-2014 season opener 90-88 to the Sacramento Kings.

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Nuggets Waive Damion James.

With rosters needing to be finalized and down to 15 players by 5:00 ET on Monday evening the Nuggets announced that they have waived Damion James. 

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